Archive for Monday, October 5, 2015

Alarm clocks ‘hated’ but necessary since ancient Greece

October 5, 2015

In my opinion the most hated appliance in most homes is the alarm clock. It starts screaming at an early hour, drives you from a pleasant night’s rest and forces you into the real world of morning. Yes, it is an unpleasant, but necessary household item.

After thinking about this for a couple of minutes I realized that the alarm clock is probably well on the road to being obsolete. Now, people set their smart phones, and in a few years the only place you could find an alarm clock would be a museum. I suspect even mentioning an alarm clock defines me as a dinosaur.

When I was young, I had a clock that you had to wind up every day! It wasn’t electric, which really dates me. I find it almost amusing that there was a time when an electric clock was very modern.

For many years we had a clock radio, and it was my favorite device to remind me it was time to rise and shine. Most days when I was in the newspaper business, I was up at 6 a.m. However on Wednesdays, when I drove to Olathe to load the newspapers and shopper, I got up at 5 a.m. In those long ago days, I enjoyed the radio-alarm. There was a “Music of Your Life” station that had a format of 1940-50’s music, which was a pleasant way to start your day — remembering when you were young.

Of course that station changed its format, so I turned to the classical station. Again waking up to some of the world’s greatest music was acceptable. It wasn’t long before classical music was no longer broadcast, and for me the clock radio disappeared. Since I am not a fan of country, heavy metal, gospel music or talk shows, I gave up on radio.

Now, being electronically challenged, I returned to the old fashioned buzzing alarm. Retirement changes things; I no longer have to get up before the chickens. Well, then that statement dates me, too. I don’t know anyone who has chickens.

Alarm clock haters can blame the famous philosopher Plato for the creation of the alarm clock. The ancient Greeks all can lay claim to inventing the clock. They developed the water clock, which kept track of hours by the draining of water. Plato went a step further and devised a method that would sound a gong. He did this to awaken his students at dawn so they wouldn’t be late for his lectures.

Throughout the Dark Ages there were improvements in time keeping, and a town clock was a possession of civic pride. In the 19th century, the modern alarm clock came into being, with a number of inventors making improvements. One source credited Seth Thomas with inventing the wind-up clock, and the clock radio was developed by James F. Reynolds.

There was an alarm clock crisis during World War II. The production of alarm clocks was halted by the war effort and by 1943-44 there was a major shortage of alarm clocks. This resulted in workers being late and slowed vital war manufacturing. To solve the crisis, a couple of companies were allowed to return to producing alarm clocks and apparently things got back on schedule. Yes, the simple alarm clocked played a role in winning the war.

For years I had a “built in” alarm clock: I really didn’t need to be reminded to get up. But as I aged I soon discovered that sleeping in was alright. This meant that I had to have an alarm clock, but now that’s not important since I rarely set it. Forgetting the alarm is just one of the joys of retirement.


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